Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

R-E-S-P-E-C-T with the SciSchmooze

from the desk of David Almandsmith

Greetings from Southern California!
Yes, i escaped in my Prius with masks, hand sanitizer, two cats, and my partner, Carmen, to her brother’s home in Carmensbad. I am pleased to report that even here, nearly everybody is wearing masks in public. With all the kerfuffle around mask wearing, just consider: in countries where it has been mandated, they have gone on to stomping the curve flat.

If you missed a major fireworks display on the 4th, you may have done your body a favor.

On July 6th, just 31 years ago, the first photograph of a red sprite was made, proving it was a real phenomenon; not understood, but real. Today they are fairly well understood, and have been photographed numerous times. Take a look at this photograph of red sprites taken just last week. To me they look like enormous science fiction monsters approaching with nefarious intent – or maybe just to subscribe to the Disney Channel.

Life in the fast lane continues at 27,500 k/hr in the ISS. Two important factors make it a good vehicle for experiments: zero gravity, and it is above the atmosphere. With zero gravity in mind, the crew is investigating Bose-Einstein Condensates and attempting to grow biological organs.  With their space environment in mind they are studying cosmic rays and looking for evidence of dark matter. The Physics Central website describes the science.

ESA, the European Space Agency, made a video showing the view from a flight over Mars’ Korelev Crater. Maybe when travel restrictions are eased, we can do it for real – well, maybe not that soon.

Boeing and the FAA are working on re-certifying the 727 MAX for Earthly transportation. Who’d a thunk that when those 387 planes were grounded in March for being unsafe, that many thousands more jet aircraft would be grounded because the passengers were unsafe. Irony.

¿Hacking the Dark Web? The NSA works at that continuously but their success, or lack thereof, is classified. On the other side of the Atlantic, Britain’s National Crime Agency announced last week that breaking the encryption on EncroChat Cryptotelephones enabled them to arrest over 700 criminals, seize $68 million dollars in cash, and intercept over two tons of drugs. Nerds rule!

My picks for the week:

It perhaps comes as little surprise, CSICON 2020 has been cancelled. I’ll just have to save my pajamas for CSICON 2021.

¿Have you watched any apocalyptic movies while at home? That may be a good thing according to some psychologists from the University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, and Aarhus University. So far I’ve watched “Outbreak.” Next on my list, “Contagion.”

These are turbulent times that bear similarities and differences from turbulent times of the past, but methods of coping and amelioration have changed little. Thomas L. Friedman has condensed his recommendations to the simple line, “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.” I concur, and trust that you do as well.

Stay safe, stay well,
David Almandsmith
Board member Bay Area Skeptics

“Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others. Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct.”
Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology, U.C. Berkeley

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